Cosplay With Kindness is a documentary that raises awareness about bullying, teasing, and harassment that occurs in the cosplay community.
Kayleigh Grubb got inspired to create Cosplay With Kindness after attending a ‘It Gets Better‘ panel by voice actor Greg Ayres. She was shocked at how intense the bullying can be. ”It was so surprising because you think at a convention there is an atmosphere of acceptance and we’re coming together for a weekend to celebrate our fandoms, but that is not always the case.”
As a Media Studies major Grubb took a course on short documentary. Grubb pitched the idea of Cosplay With Kindness and it got accepted. It became one of the short documentaries that her team filmed last year.
Currently Grubb is doing a Kickstarter Campaign in order to expand the documentary. “I wanted to expand the documentary because I felt there was a lot that we didn’t touch on. We got a lot of great feedback and a lot of people really liked it but I want to make a longer version, put out a better quality, and make a more engaging documentary,” said Grubb.
Grubb experienced bullying one year when she cosplayed as Hatsune Miku. “I had the wig and dress that kind of passed as that cosplay but everyone could still figure out who I was. Then this girl that I walked by said: ‘Your cosplay is wrong. Did you not know who she looked like?’ That comment just irritated me all day because I really like Miku Hatsune.”
Grubb went on to explain that cosplay is a learning process. “Not everyone has a knack for sewing and the funds for constructing cosplay because it’s expensive. When I did that cosplay I was an undergrad that wasn’t making a lot of money,” she said.
However there is a fine line between between cosplaying for fun and being a part of a competition.
“I think in general you should be able to cosplay whichever character you love. If it’s in a competition then it’s a different story because they judge it based on accuracy, and in competitions you are striving for accuracy. In general when you are just hanging out at a convention, going to panels, making new friends and going to concerts you should be able to freely portray that character, and you will see lots of people do different takes on characters.”
The digital age has opened doors for people to bully others online, but we can take action against it.
“A lot of the bullying also happens after conventions online. People would take a photo and post it online and make all sorts of insults and negative comments. One way to take action is to call people out on it and tell them it’s not okay to make fun of people. Sometimes the person in the photo can find that picture and see all those negative comments, and be devastated. That person may have had an awesome weekend at that convention and then find out later that someone took a picture of them, and are making fun of their cosplay,” she began.
“Keep your friends and strangers in check and let them know that this type of behavior isn’t acceptable, as it does have real life consequences because a lot of people don’t take cyber-bullying seriously.”
Some of the challenges that Grubb faced as she was making the documentary came from a technical side, and when she conducted interviews.
“In regards to the actual film-making the challenge is having good lighting and capturing audio. At conventions it’s really loud because there are so many people. When it came to interviewing people I knew these stories were going to be sad and heart-breaking but as a new film maker at the time, I never dealt with someone crying on-camera. So I panicked, opened my arms and asked if they wanted a hug despite it not being typical for the interviewer to hug the interviewee,” she said.
Grubb has a message to those that do bully others in the cosplay community. “You can have your opinion. If you don’t like someone’s cosplay you can have that opinion. That’s your right and there is nothing wrong with that. But going so far as to berate that person and make them feel bad about themselves is not okay.”
While Grubb was unable to give specifics as to what might drive a person to bully others, she did mention that there are people who take pride in their cosplays. “There is the competition aspect of cosplay. I think people take the competition outside of a panel or staging area for that competition. A lot of people think that if you can’t do it right then you can’t do the character justice.”
Grubb acknowledges that there are instances where the bullying is not intentional. “Someone can try to offer advice but it comes off in a negative way. So I think it’s also important to make sure that person wants your advice, and not just give it because it might be taken the wrong way.”
Grubb hopes that Cosplay With Kindness brings a positive change to the community. “Conventions have gotten so huge that there is now a wider range of people and more apparent bullying. I want to bring people hope that cosplaying and going to conventions can be a safe experience for all con-goers, both online and offline.”
For more information you can go to www.cosplaywithkindness.org
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